‘Broad City’ Is Still the Most Addictive Comedy On TV
100 years from now when scholars want an accurate snapshot of pop culture in the mid-2010s they can look through Kanye’s Twitter, read about #OscarsSoWhite or watch Broad City. The latter will definitely be the most enjoyable choice, and the one that, with its brazen approach at bizarre humor, best sums up millennials.
From the cover of Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” to a naked lip-sync of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” from party-hopping to battle #FOMO to endless “Yas Kween”-ing, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Comedy Central series always has its finger right on the pulse of the moment, and likely in a bunch of other inappropriate places. Much like its first two seasons, Season 3 of Broad City, which premieres on Wednesday, continues to capture the absurdity and humor of life for 20-somethings in New York, all without the pretentiousness of most shows set in the eccentric city. It borrows from Sex and the City and Girls with similar tropes of women navigating life, adopting the whole New York-as-a-character thing, but makes it fresher and more genuine than those before it. The city isn’t merely a character in the show, it’s exposed for the disgusting, dazzling, exhausting, oddly charming thing it is. And Jacobson and Glazer know we’ve had one too many shows, movies and web series that preach about growing up and finding yourself in NYC. Instead, they use Broad City to break rules of conventional comedies, to show the great parts and the nightmares of being a 20-something, and how completely normal weird or taboo topics can be.
In the Season 3 premiere, “Two Chainz,” Broad City follows the similar structure of Abbi and Ilana going on another absurd adventure. It begins with Ilana dropping her bike lock key down a sewer drain, leaving her stuck with the chain around her waist. Then Abbi buys a new shirt at a vintage pop-up shop that’s more animalistic than the Mean Girls primal scenes, only to realize it still has the security ink tag. Things only get worse as the two get swept up and shuffled (quite literally) around the city, another reminder that if anyone’s going to get totally screwed in Broad City’s world, it’s Abbi an Ilana. Writers Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello (who also wrote last season’s “Knockoffs” and “Coat Check”) turn another set of trivial and silly misadventures into some of this year’s funniest moments on TV.
What Broad City does better than anything is showcase two women being utterly and unabashedly themselves. There’s no censoring here, and when there is it’s only to bleep-out the girls’ cursing or nudity. Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler are the two most outspoken characters on TV, two women defying all the expectations and tropes placed on female characters. The Season 3 opener shows it all — in a year-long montage we see Abbi and Ilana in their respective bathrooms doing all the things TV series never like to reveal their female (and sometimes even male) characters doing. They smoke a ton of weed, they masturbate, they fart, they get oral sex, they give oral sex, they shave (and straighten) their pubes, they poop, they puke, they dance, they eat; they’re just totally normal, totally weird chicks and they couldn’t care less. Without being aggressively feminist and preachy or overly self-aware and intellectualized, Broad City hits that sweet spot of making a statement but having fun while doing it.
In the second episode of the new season, “Co-Op,” Ilana has one of her most character-defining moments yet when Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) tells her he’s slept with someone else. She has a complete meltdown in what could be a typical portrait of an overly emotional, over-reacting girlfriend. But then Broad City completely subverts it with Ilana’s freakout actually being a celebration. “We are open sex friends, we are poly, we are bi!” she says in her usual dancing-while-speaking cadence. Like Season 2's pegging episode, which was a bold display of male sexuality and kink (remember Nicole’s nipple clamps?), this is another showcase of how TV can and should openly to talk about sex and sexuality.
As much as we all want real-life best friends like Abbi and Ilana, Broad City is also unafraid to expose their less favorable sides. The inherent narcissism, selfishness and immaturity of the two leads has always been apparent, but for the first time in the show’s history, Abbi and Ilana are now beginning to reckon with their destructive flaws. Ilana’s reluctance to ever do any work at her start-up job has been an ongoing joke for the past two seasons, leading her timid boss to seek advice from his therapist. But in Season 3 Ilana finally gets retribution for her childish antics. In the third episode, “Game Over,” Ilana’s put in charge of her company’s Twitter account (never a good, but still a hilarious idea), and Abbi’s violent competitive streak comes out in Hulk-like fashion at work. Here the show acknowledges that it exists in a realistic space and that as mindless as Abbi and Ilana may be throughout their shenanigans, they’re still actual characters and not just pieces of sketch routines used for comedic effect. Season 3 begins to force Abbi and Ilana to grow up a bit — but don’t worry, it’s not in the self-serious vein of Girls.
At the end of the Season 2 finale as the girls ate pizza on Ilana’s birthday, they asked each other what they were proud of and what they wanted to accomplish in the next year. It was more comedic than sentimental, as much of Broad City is, but it pointed to a slightly new direction that the show’s taking in Season 3. It’s fun to watch these (roughly) 23-year-olds get super high, have sex and express themselves freely, but now that Broad City is certain to have a future for at least two more seasons, it also needs to chart how, or if, its characters will evolve.
A moment in “Co-Op” reveals just how the show’s writers are accomplishing that goal. Abbi, while impersonating Ilana, tries to explain how cool and smart her BFF Abbi is to a cute hipster guy at Ilana’s co-op. Eventually she realizes that how she describes herself, an aspiring artist, is pretty far from who she’s become. It’s a reflective moment for her character, but one that’s so subtle and woven so well into the humor of the episode that you’ll hardly pick up on it. Watching Abbi dressed as Ilana and attempt to twerk upside down is so damn great that the brilliance behind the episode won’t even strike until after you stop laughing.
That’s the greatness of Broad City, a series that continues to offer smart, bold depictions of women, sexuality and relationships all under the guise of zany stoner-filled comedy. Even when it does break barriers — name one other bisexual, polyamorous woman who wears men’s briefs and has Skype sex on TV — it feels completely natural and genuine, unconcerned with establishing itself as a “groundbreaking” show. But don’t intellectualize it too much; as soon as Broad City does something brilliant, it takes another bong hit, forgets what it said, and darts in another delightfully absurd direction.